Common causes of knee pain in young adults and how to treat it

Written by: Mr Ayaz Lakdawala
Edited by: Cameron Gibson-Watt

Sore, aching or swollen knees isn’t a problem only older people experience, plenty of young people complain about painful knees too! However, treatment for knee pain in young adults is often slightly different and there are both surgical and non-surgical procedures that can help.

Mr Ayaz Lakdawala, a highly-skilled consultant orthopaedic surgeon based in Coventry, explains the most common causes of knee pain in young adults and how it can be treated.



Why might some young adults have 'bad', painful knees?

Having pain in your knee can be caused by any type of knee injury, mechanical problem or form of arthritis. The most common cause of painful knees in young people include:



There are over 100 forms of arthritis, but the ones most likely to affect young people’s knees are rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, gout and pseudogout.


What are the most common knee injuries in young adults?

Most causes of knee pain in young adults come from overuse injuries when ligaments or tendons are overworked. These symptoms can develop quickly after strenuous activity and usually affect sports players. Tendonitis or bursitis are a couple of common overuse injuries.


The most common knee injuries are:



How often do young adults need surgery for bad knees?

Surgery is considered when non-operative treatments have not worked. Most young patients who have pain and associated symptoms like locking, knee giving way and frequent swelling usually require surgery if these symptoms affect their ability to work, play sports or carry-out recreation activities.  


Certain conditions like tendonitis, muscular imbalance, muscle de-conditioning can be treated by physiotherapy and muscle conditioning. Conditions such as proximal patella tendonitis can also be treated with PRP (platelet-rich plasma injections).


What non-surgical procedures are good for knee pain in young adults?

The type of non-surgical procedure will depend on your underlying condition or injury. In the acute phase or immediately after injury, wearing a knee splint or brace for a short amount of time can be helpful.


Physiotherapy can be useful in the rehabilitation phase, and injections such as PRP or steroid injections can also be helpful in certain conditions. These non-surgical treatments can often help you to return quickly to sports and daily activities.


Should young adults with knee pain avoid specific activities and sports?

The type of activities to avoid depend very much on what the underlying cause is. I would advise young patients with pain to see an orthopaedic specialist who will be able to assess their knee, make the diagnosis and advise them accordingly.


During the acute phase, I usually recommend avoiding impact activities like running, jogging, jumping and pivoting, which means most sports. I also advise my patients not to kneel or squat when the knee is acutely painful.


The advice regarding avoiding any specific activity or sports will then depend on whether the underlying condition has been appropriately treated. I would strongly advise young adults to consult a knee specialist if the pain or associated symptoms persist. 


If you have persistent knee pain and would like to see a specialist, head to Mr Ayaz Lakdawala’s Top Doctors profile and make an appointment with him.

By Mr Ayaz Lakdawala
Orthopaedic surgery

Mr Ayaz Lakdawala is an extensively trained and highly skilled consultant orthopaedic surgeon. With over 20 years of professional experience, he has developed leading expertise in the diagnosis and management of orthopaedic knee conditions and sports injuries. He performs a high volume of knee surgery and regularly receives referrals from colleagues for a second opinion and complex cases.

Mr Lakdawala ensures that all patients receive first-class and personalised care, which is reflected in excellent patient outcomes and reviews. His surgical expertise consists of, but is not limited to, knee replacement surgery (partial and total), knee arthroscopy, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction, knee ligament reconstruction (MCL, LCL PLC), meniscal repair and cartilage regeneration procedures.

In addition, Mr Lakdawala is one of the very few surgeons who use Ortho-pilot™, a computer navigation programme for improved surgical accuracy during knee replacement. As the only surgeon in Warwickshire that offers computer navigation knee replacement surgery, patients are referred to him from across Warwickshire and the West-Midlands for complex knee replacements.

He is also an expert in non-surgical procedures, such as joint injections. What's more, he provides personalised treatment for patients with sports injuries, from leisure sports players to professional athletes, and he ensures he stays up-to-date with the latest techniques. He also has links with specialist exercise and conditioning coaches to help patients return to sports after injury or operation.

During his training, Mr Lakdawala was selected for higher specialist training in trauma and orthopaedics in the West Midlands, where he trained at the internationally known hospitals of the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital and Queen Elizabeth Hospital. After completing his training, he was appointed the post of senior clinical fellow at world-renowned knee fellowship centres at King’s College Hospital, London, and the Exeter Knee Reconstruction Unit of the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital NHS Trust.

His leading knowledge and skill have led to him being appointed as the Regional Director for Royal College of Surgeon of England (RCSE) and he also chairs the professional affairs board in the West Midlands. His work with the RCSE involves improving surgical standards, patient care and surgical education and training. He is also an examiner for the Warwick Medical School and trainer for junior doctors and senior registrars.

Mr Lakdawala's is also recognised for his research. He has published extensively in regional and international peer-reviewed journals. He is also regularly invited to national and international conferences and meetings to present his work.

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